Football Coaching Staff
Erik Chinander
Defensive Coordinator
Coach Info:
Position: Defensive Coordinator
Alma Mater: Iowa
Graduating Year: 2003


  • 2016 Broyles Award Nominee (Nation's Top Assistant Coach)

Erik Chinander is in his second season as Nebraska's defensive coordinator and his 17th year of coaching overall. He is in his fourth consecutive season serving as Scott Frost's defensive coordinator, and Chinander has coached with Frost at four schools (Nebraska, UCF, Oregon and Northern Iowa) for a total of 11 years.

Recognized as one of the nation’s top assistant coaches with a nomination for the Broyles Award in 2016, Chinander has been on the staff of one FCS (Northern Iowa) and two FBS (Oregon) teams that have played in the national championship game, and he also coached in the NFL Playoffs. Chinander's defensive units have ranked in the top 20 nationally in takeaways three times in the past five seasons and in the top five twice. In three seasons as a coordinator, Chinander's defenses have recorded 78 takeaways, an average of more than two per game and 26 per season.

Nebraska (2018)

Chinander oversaw a Husker defense that showed significant improvement from the 2017 season and also within the 2018 campaign. Nebraska allowed two fewer touchdowns per game over the final six games of 2018 compared to the first six games of the season. The Huskers held two of their final five opponents to single digits, including a 9-6 victory over Michigan State, where the defense led Nebraska to its first victory without scoring a touchdown since 1937.  The 2018 season marked the first time in six years that the Huskers had held more than one opponent to fewer than 10 points.

The Blackshirts improved by 26 spots in the national scoring defense rankings from the unit Chinander inherited, and NU saw dramatic improvements in its pass defense, sack totals and takeaways. The Huskers improved their pass efficiency defense by 61 spots in 2018, ranking 34th  nationally in the category. Nebraska broke up 58 passes, the ninth-highest total in program history and the most by a Husker squad in nearly a decade. The Blackshirts also totaled 25 sacks in 2018, 11 more than they had in 2017. In the takeaway department, Nebraska forced 20 turnovers, the program's highest total in four seasons. That included nine fumble recoveries after Nebraska had recovered only 11 fumbles in the previous three seasons combined.

Individually, Chinander's defense produced five All-Big Ten honorees, which was one more selection than the Nebraska defense had earned in the previous three seasons combined.

Before Nebraska

UCF: Chinander led a dramatic defensive turnaround in his two seasons at UCF. He inherited a Knight defense that had allowed 37.7 points per game in 2015 and two years later, UCF lowered that average to 25.3 points per game, allowing nearly two fewer touchdowns per game. Chinander also helped UCF improve its national ranking in scoring defense by 65 spots in his two seasons in Orlando.

A trademark of Chinander’s UCF defense was creating takeaways. The Knights forced 58 turnovers in 26 games under Chinander, ranking second nationally in takeaways in 2017 and 18th in 2016. The 58 takeaways over the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined ranked third nationally. UCF was one of only six teams to force 25 turnovers both seasons and one of just eight teams to rank in the top 20 nationally in takeaways in both 2016 and 2017.

In helping the Knights to a perfect 13-0 season and a conference title in 2017, Chinander’s defense played a major role in the first perfect season in school and American Athletic Conference history. UCF led the AAC in defensive touchdowns and ranked third in the AAC in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense.

Individually, six Knights earned all-conference accolades, including a league-high four first-team honorees. Linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was on the preseason watch list for several national defensive honors including the Butkus Award, was the only player in the conference to be a unanimous All-AAC selection. Cornerback Mike Hughes, a first-year transfer from Garden City Community College, earned second-team All-America honors in 2017, becoming the Knights’ first All-American in four seasons.

Hughes (first round), the highest defensive draft pick in UCF history, and Griffin (fifth round) were both selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Their selections marked just the second time in school history that UCF had multiple defensive players drafted.

In his first season in Orlando, the defense was the key to UCF leading the nation with a six-win improvement from the 2015 to 2016 season. The Knights ranked in the top 10 nationally in four defensive categories and in the top 25 in nine categories. UCF was second nationally in red zone defense, third in defensive touchdowns, sixth in third-down defense, ninth in tackles for loss, 12th in pass efficiency defense, 17th in sacks, 18th in turnovers forced, 22nd in interceptions and 24th in fumbles recovered. Griffin was the 2016 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year after ranking ninth nationally in tackles for loss (20.0) and 11th in sacks (11.5). He was also a first-team all-conference selection as a total of four Knights earned All-American Athletic Conference accolades.

OREGON: Before becoming Frost's defensive coordinator, Chinander coached the outside linebackers at Oregon in 2014 and 2015, when Frost was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator. Chinander’s linebackers helped Oregon play in the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship Game in 2014. 

The Ducks ranked second in the Pac-12 and in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense in 2014 and were third nationally with 34 takeaways. In 2015, Oregon ranked ninth nationally in sacks and pass efficiency defense.

Chinander served as a defensive graduate assistant at Oregon in 2011 and 2012, when the Ducks ranked in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense. Chinander also spent the 2010 season in Eugene as an intern.

In Chinander’s five total seasons on the Duck staff, Oregon posted a 58-10 record, won three conference titles and twice played for the national championship.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: In between his two stints at Oregon, Chinander gained NFL experience by serving as the assistant defensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. With the Eagles, Chinander assisted defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and helped with game and practice plans, coordinating the scout teams and evaluating current and future personnel. The Eagles won the NFC East that season with a 10-6 record.

NORTHERN IOWA: Chinander served as an offensive assistant at Northern Iowa, coaching the tight ends for six seasons from 2004 to 2009, including two seasons when Frost was on the Panther staff (2007 and 2008). Chinander also assisted with the defensive and specialist scout teams. He made a huge impact in the Panthers’ recruiting, with his coaching and recruiting helping UNI win three conference titles and make three appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs, including a runner-up finish in 2005 and a semifinal appearance in 2008.

ELLSWORTH CC: Chinander's first job was as the offensive and defensive line coach for Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, where he also coordinated the strength and conditioning programs for football and men’s and women’s basketball. The Panthers finished second in the region and three of his players garnered first-team all-region accolades.

Playing Career (Iowa)

Chinander was a walk-on offensive lineman for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1998 to 2002. As a senior, Iowa shared the Big Ten title and earned a spot in the Orange Bowl. Chinander received the Hawkeyes’ Offensive Team Leader Award that season.


Chinander earned bachelor's degrees from Iowa in history and health leisure and sports studies in 2013. He and his wife, Megan, have two daughters, Penelope and Sophia, and one son, Ripp.

Coaching Career

2018-present: Nebraska, Defensive Coordinator
2016-17: UCF, Defensive Coordinator
2014-15: Oregon, Assistant Coach (Outside Linebackers)
2013: Philadelphia Eagles, Assistant Coach (Defensive Line)
2011-12: Oregon, Defensive Graduate Assistant
2010: Oregon, Intern
2004-09: Northern Iowa, Assistant Coach (Tight Ends)
2003: Ellsworth (Iowa) CC, Assistant Coach (Offensive Line/Defensive Line)